Friday, 9 September 2016

Venezia 73: Far from home on day 9

The 73rd Venice Film Festival is entering its final days, so talk is turning to who will scoop up the awards? Will it be an old favourite filmmaker or a rising star? Will a known name like Timothy Spall or Natalie Portman take an acting prize over someone unknown and devastating? Everyone has an opinion. And the first flurry of jury prizes will be handed out tonight, while the rest come tomorrow. Here's what I've seen in the last day or two (that's Charo Santos above)...

The Woman Who Left [Ang Babaeng Humayo]
dir-scr Lav Diaz; with Charo Santos, John Lloyd Cruz 16/Ph ****.
At nearly four hours long, you'd think this Filipino epic would try the patience. But you'd be wrong. This is a riveting odyssey that tells a straightforward story of revenge and redemption with strong echoes of life anywhere on earth. It may feel a bit like binge-watching an entire miniseries, but Lav Diaz's filmmaking is worth experiencing on a big screen, as he shoots in a style that's deceptively rough and old-fashioned, but is packed with skill, wit and some big surprises.

dir Rebecca Zlotowski; with Natalie Portman, Lily-Rose Depp 16/Fr **
A baffling story set just before WWII broke out, this lavishly produced film looks great, and has a lovely central performance by Natalie Portman. Alas, the plot simply never comes into focus, veering all over the place, complicated by flashbacks, framing scenes, dreams and visions, plus a film-within-a-film motif. but none of this resolves itself into anything terribly coherent.

On the Milky Road
dir-scr Emir Kusturica; with Monica Bellucci, Emir Kusturica 16/Ser ***
Veteran Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica is back with another lively, cacophonous romp through his nation's history, this time centring on the 1990s war. The film's first half is a joyous depiction of the experiences of a rather wacky group of characters, including several animals. Then the film takes a hard swerve into violence and fantasy that may gel for Serbian viewers, but leaves everyone else in the dark.

These Days [Questi giorni]
dir Giuseppe Piccioni; with Maria Roveran, Marta Gastini 16/It **
It's not easy to work out what this Italian comedy-drama is all about. It's a road movie that neglects to show us the journey, following a group of lively characters who never do or say anything amusing. Romances are thin and unfocussed, and the plot itself is only a hint. There are some intriguing ideas swirling around, but over two long hours filmmaker Giuseppe Piccioni never quite finds anything to make the movie either meaningful or entertaining.

Only a few films to go now, including Denzel Washington in The Magnificent Seven, Mathieu Amalric in Never Ever and the Aussie drama Boys in the Trees.

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